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The Great Fluoride Debate

A few weeks ago I took my boys to our family dentist. I was hoping to finally get my five year old to sit still enough to successfully x-ray his molars and have my one year old’s first exam. To those ends, it was a roaring success! My eldest, through bribery, sat still and my baby screamed so loud and opened his mouth so wide no one had any issues seeing his teeth. I was in a pretty good mood, until the dentist reviewed the x-rays. My son had a giant cavity on right side of his bottom teeth and the beginning stages of another on the left. He’d need fillings, and soon.

Now I pride myself on dental hygiene. My boys brush twice a day, floss (do you know how much fun it is to floss a toddler?), and the oldest uses daily mouthwash. And yet, here I was, dumbfounded, facing two fillings before his sixth birthday. I mean, I have had one cavity my entire life, at 17. What have I done wrong here? I won’t lie, I wallowed in mommy guilt for a while after this. But in reality, comparing my childhood dental record to my boys is unfair. I grew up in Orange County, CA, and there we had a tooth defender we weren’t even aware of:

Fluoridated Drinking Water.

I knew Washoe County Water supply does not fluoridate their water. It was put to a vote in 2002 and turned down. Lawmakers again shut down the notion in 2009. “Truckee Meadows Water Authority Manager of Operations Paul Miller said it will cost $4-6 million to install a fluoridation system. It would also increase user bills by up to $1.50 per month.” (KRNV) I knew it was controversial, with people both for and against. Still, I wanted to know more, so I dug deeper.

First, fluoride is proven to help prevent tooth decay. That’s why nearly every toothpaste and mouthwash on the market includes it. Basically, it helps in remineralizing your teeth. Today’s diet is full of processed foods, sugar-laden carbohydrates, and sweets. These foods create a toxic soup in your mouth, ripe for bacteria growth. And what do these bacteria eat? Your enamel. Once that protective coating is gone, your teeth are exposed to the bacteria, which then attack the soft tissue and the nerve, causing cavities. Fluoride helps prevent that enamel from being destroyed. In some cases, introducing fluoride to the local drinking water lowered tooth decay by two thirds. Those in support of water fluoridation include the American Dental Association (ADA), the US Surgeon General, the American Medical Association (AMA), the National Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), not to mention international groups and countless dentists.

So why don’t we have it in Reno? Well, like all things today, fluoride is a hot-topic. Controversy encircles fluoride use, and without a doubt, too much fluoride is not a good thing. Overexposure can lead to fluorosis, which ranges from white streaks on your teeth to fully pockmarking them with brown stains. Skeletal fluorosis is a concern in adults exposed to too much fluoride. Some studies have shown excessive fluoride exposure while in utero lowers IQs and increases the risk of anemia. All in all, some scary stuff.

Fluoride, being a mineral, is found naturally in groundwater depending upon the soil and bedrock composition.  I live in Double Diamond, South Reno, and the natural fluoride content in my area is .20 mg/l. (If you want to see what your area fluoridation level is, click here.) However, the CDC recommends .70 mg/l to receive the benefits. Adverse effects of fluoride arise from far higher levels. Fluorosis only happens when you consume excessive fluoride, so fluoridated toothpastes and mouthwash are safe as long as they aren’t swallowed.

Without a doubt, I’ve seen the benefits of water fluoridation in my family. My grandfather, mayor of his small town in Minnesota, fought to prevent fluoridated water while my father was a child. My dad has suffered dental issues throughout his entire life. My mom, a military brat, lived all of the world, mainly in places without fluoride, and still remembers having five cavities at her first dental checkup. My husband grew up in Reno and his dental bills have been enough to make me feel faint. I grew up in Orange County and have had one cavity, which I got three years after I moved to Incline Village. My little brother has only had one, occurring after we moved.

You may see this as circumstantial and fire back with “I’ve never had a cavity and I’ve lived in Reno my whole life…” and to that I reply “Good for you.” Obviously, genetics play a role in the strength and resilience of your enamel. But when you haven’t been handed the golden ticket in the dental genetic lottery, you need fluoride in your life. I know which way I’ll be voting should the measure to fluoridate Washoe County Water Supply come up again. In the meantime, I’ve got a filling appointment to schedule for my son. At least they’re baby teeth….



About Lauren Bradfield

Lauren Bradfield
Lauren Bradfield is a Nevada transplant from the Great California Migration of the 1990′s, where her family moved to Incline Village. She attended UNR and graduated with a BA in English Writing. Shortly after, she and her now husband moved across the world to begin an adventure with the US Government where they lived in multiple countries and did cool things that she can’t openly discuss. All that came to a head during the Arab Spring Uprising in 2011 when they were evacuated out of Tripoli, Libya under gunfire. Realizing this probably wasn’t an ideal environment to raise a family, they left the government and moved back to Reno in 2012 to work in the family business and hopefully rule the world (she kids, but seriously…). Apparently, leaving Reno and moving back once you have kids is a common trend since a majority of their college friends have done so, proving that Reno truly is the best place to raise a family. Now Lauren is mom to two crazy boys and a labrador retriever who has decided that he will remain a puppy indefinitely. Lauren loves to travel, write, read, pretend she’s amazing at pilates, eat high-gluten foods, and basically anything that gets her more involved in Northern Nevada.


  1. Lauren, you are a gutless wonder and a human rights abuser. You should give your children up for adoption, because they would probably be better off without you.

    • Germouse

      Ironic that you should attempt to criticize anyone else, when you are the one advocating so hard to put the populace at greater risk for adverse effects.

      People are going to drink fluoride in their water whether it is fluoridated or not. The only question is how much and how well controlled is the level. Under the recommendations of the proper science and healthcare professionals, that level is strictly monitored and maintained at a level well below that which may cause adverse effects. In fluoridated systems, people know exactly how much fluoride they are getting from the water right down to the milligram. Under the irresponsible recommendations of antifluoridationists such as you, the fluoride level is uncontrolled, variable, and can be as high as 4.0 ppm. Under your recommendation, people have no real idea as to how much fluoride they are getting from their water.

      The chronic ingestion of water with a fluoride content exceeding 2.0 ppm can result in moderate/severe dental fluorosis costing large amounts of money to treat adequately. Chronically ingesting water with a fluoride content of 4.0 ppm can result in not only moderate/severe dental fluorosis, but also bone fracture and skeletal fluorosis. Fluoridation has kept these occurrences at a bare minimum in the US, where skeletal fluorosis is so rare that it is nearly non-existent.

      Your reckless advocation for removal of the strict controls that in place with fluoridated water puts people at far greater risk for the adverse effects which you constantly attempt to attribute to fluoridated water.

      Given your irresponsibility on this issue alone, if you want to criticize someone, go look in the mirror.

      Steven D. Slott, DDS

    • Lauren Bradfield
      Lauren Bradfield

      Wow, how unbelievably rude. Did you even take a moment to read the article and see the myriad of national and international groups who support water fluoridation? Probably not, as you seem an inept individual only capable of childlike mockery and infantile insults. Honestly, I feel sorry for your family, having to be subjected to such a negative person.

      • Hey…wait a sec! I’m on your side, Lauren! Germouse, the antifluoridatinist in Ireland, is the rude one, not me, the charming, polite, knowledgeable dentist from North Carolina!

        Welcome to the online underworld of antifluoridationists. Germouse’s kindergarten rant against you was tame in regard to his and countless other antifluoridationists’ constant rants against me. You just have to laugh at their infantile intellect.

        Steven D. Slott, DDS

        • Lauren Bradfield
          Lauren Bradfield

          I know it showed up kin of confusing but I was responding to the person above. I hit Reply and it popped down under your comment. Thank you for bringing your expertise and medical knowledge to this commentary. And thank you for your support!

          • Yeah, I know. Just giving you a hard time. Don’t let clowns like Germouse bother you. They’re just par for the course in the murky, conspiracy laden world of paranoid antifluoridationists.

            Steven D. Slott, DDS

  2. Great article, Lauren. I grew up in a rural town in Utah where our water was fluoridated. No cavities – ever – until I had been in Reno for almost 10 years. Coincidence? I think not. I know how I’ll be voting; even if it costs more as water consumers, I want this for my children and myself. Good for you for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Wow Germouse, way to speak up for your cause. Name-calling and bashing accomplishes what, exactly? Lauren, thanks for this thoughtful overview of the issue. I’ve actually never given much thought to flouride and will ask my daughters’ dentist at their next appointment. So far no cavities… but we live in Lyon County, and I have no idea if they treat the water there.

  4. I don’t feel like this article addresses the risks and dangers of fluoride. The biggest concern is that adding fluoride to our water removes the control of the amounts that each individual gets. We all drink different amounts of ware, and consider the large amounts that formula fed infants receive, extremely dangerous amounts. I’m offended by people who vote for changes such as these because they force your neighbor to drink fluoride when they choose a healthier diet. Get your fluoride from your toothpaste and other foods, and I’ll choose a different route for myself and family.

    Good article for readers to review: http://www.naturalnews.com/022564_cavities_root_canals.html

    • Lauren Bradfield
      Lauren Bradfield

      The very fact you included a Natural News article to review negates your entire point…. and the comment about healthier diets… Really? The assumption that people who want the added benefit of fluorinated water must therefor eat crappy diets is not only wrong but arrogant and nasty.

      I honestly recommend you research accredited news sources regarding fluorinated water and leave Natural News to the anti-vaxers and conspiracy theorists.

  5. Wow Lauren, for someone who titles their article The Great Fluoride Debate, you really don’t welcome anyone to disagree with you. My “entire point” as you referred to it, was to make readers aware of the dangers of consuming large amounts of fluoride, something you breezed over. You may not like Natural News as a source, but your quick rejection of diet leads me to believe that you’re not interested in learning more about this subject. I didn’t pass judgement on the fact that all your sources were supported by the American Dental Association. I just think it’s important to give your readers the two sides of the debate. I apologize for challenging you.

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